Tools & Tips

Building an Effective Brand Strategy: Messaging Material

Chelsea Herman April 21, 2020

Have you been following along with our Building An Effective Brand Strategy series? We’ve arrived at the last post in that series, and in a way it is a culmination of the earlier steps we’ve explored—like the Brand Positioning Statement and Brand Personality.

Your messaging material reflects the definition of who you are, as articulated in your positioning statement, in the tone of voice established by your brand personality. But, unlike those pieces of your brand strategy, which are internal tools, your brand messaging material’s very purpose is to be shared with the world: to help your stakeholders understand who you are, what you do and how you do it—and why that’s important. 

 

sign on side of road that says "we like you proud :)"

 

What is brand messaging, and why is it important? 

In simple terms, brand messaging material is just what it sounds like—prepared messages about your brand, which your team can use in written and verbal communication. 

And why does it matter? 

As we discussed in our post on Brand Personality, when it comes to branding, consistency is key: 

Research shows that consistency breeds familiarity, and familiarity breeds trust. And what’s more important to a nonprofit brand than trust?

But maintaining consistency can be tricky unless you happen to be a team of one. Chances are, there are at least two people communicating on behalf of your organization—whether in an official communication capacity or not. They may be appearing at conferences, or recruiting new staff, or posting on social media. No matter what their role, they should be equipped to speak articulately about your organization. And ideally, how they speak about your organization should more or less align with how the rest of your team does. 

That’s where brand messaging comes in. It gets everyone on the same page about how you talk about your organization—in conversation or in writing. It makes sure everyone is singing from the same songbook, so to speak, and therefore supports brand consistency. Because, as we’ve established, consistent brands are memorable and magnetic.

 

lots of open books layered next to each other

 

What are the elements of brand messaging? 

Everyone approaches brand messaging a little differently. At Briteweb, our core messaging package includes a long bio, short bio, micro bio and talking points. 

 

#1: The Long Bio 

What is it? 

The long bio is essentially your brand story. It’s a longform representation of who you are—the who, where, and when, but more importantly the how, what and why. 

 

What is it used for? 

Because it’s on the lengthier side, the long bio’s uses are few—but important. The long bio tends to make for a great “About Us”—ready-made, copy-and-paste content for one of the most important pages on your website. It can be used in grant proposals. And one of its most important uses is for on-boarding new employees and volunteers; it’s a great way to get them up to speed on the ins and outs of the organization, in an appropriate tone of voice. 

 

What does it look like?

Our long bios tend to be 3-5 paragraphs long.  It includes a longer description of who you are, what challenges your organization addresses, and how. 

 

#2: The Short Bio

What is it? 

The short bio, or boilerplate, is a pared-down brand story. If you can get all the essentials into one paragraph, that’s ideal, but given the complexity of the organizations we work with, these bios are typically a couple of paragraphs. This is your elevator pitch—if you’re going all the way to the top.  

 

What is it used for?

Because it’s shorter, the short bio is more versatile. In fact, it’s the piece of your brand messaging that you’re likely to use most often—in web copy, grant proposals, job descriptions, and press releases. 

 

What does it look like?

A short bio is typically a sliced-and-diced version of the long bio—just what we consider the most need-to-know elements. 

 

#3: The Micro Bio

What is it?

The name says it all—this is the tiniest version of your core messaging. Your organization in a nutshell, ideally in 160 characters or less. This would be your elevator pitch if you’re only going a couple floors up. 

 

What is it used for?

In 160 characters or less’ may have given it away. This bio’s main purpose is social media, although there may be other times when you need an ultra-brief description of your organization. 

 

What does it look like?

Keep it short and sweet. It should fit  in your social media bio line on Twitter and Instagram.

 

#4: Talking Points

What is it?

Talking points are messages meant to be used in conversation. They’re written simply, with straightforward sentence structure—so they’re easy to memorize and natural to say aloud in everyday conversation. 

 

What is it used for?

Talking points are meant to be used any time someone needs to explain your organization to someone—whether in the course of their day-to-day duties, at a conference, or in a social setting like a dinner party. Every communication about your organization—written or verbal, casual or otherwise—contributes to your brand identity. Talking points support your people in ensuring that their verbal communication is bolstering your brand. 

 

What does it look like?

We approach talking points in a number of ways, depending on the organization we’re working with. Sometimes we simply write out the who, what, when, where, how and why of an organization. Sometimes we create audience-specific talking points, creating messaging that speaks directly to the wants and needs of the stakeholder groups you’ve identified in your audience profiles. And sometimes we structure them in a Q&A format.

These talking points anticipate questions that our core team and members of our Briteweb Network are likely to hear when they’re out in the world, whether they’re representing Briteweb in an official capacity or not. 

 

front of a building with a sign on a door that reads "ideas are brewing"

 

Pro Tips For Creating Your Own Brand Messaging Material

Hopefully the above descriptions and samples are a good starting point. Here are a few additional points to keep in mind: 

  • When developing brand messaging, always start by writing the long bio. Do a round of revisions to make sure you’ve got the right material, in the right tone of voice. After you’ve got that nailed, the short bio will be much easier—it’s a truncated version of the long bio, pared down to the essentials. We suggest starting with the long version and highlighting the vital content, removing any excess. 

  • You want your messaging to feel potent, and never, ever vague—which means every word and every sentence needs to count. If your organization speaks to a diversity of audiences (as most do), it’s important to avoid trying to say everything to everyone—a surefire way to make your messaging either too complicated or too watered-down.

    Be very clear on which of your audiences is the most important to your success of your organization (in the social sectors, that tends to be donors and/or funders, although that isn’t always the case) and write the long bio with them in mind. If it doesn’t feel possible to write effective messaging without alienating some important audiences, you might want to consider writing audience-specific boilerplates and talking points. If you go that route, we recommend still having core messaging that speaks to as many of your stakeholders as possible, because you’re always going to need general messaging about your organization. Just remember—general doesn’t mean vague. 

  • If you feel stuck, your positioning statement is a good place to start, as it defines what you do, and for whom, and what makes you different. 

  • Another good way to get started is to write out your organization’s who, what, where, when, how and why. Your ‘why’ is particularly important in the social sector, and should be very clear to anyone reading your messaging. 

  • For the long bio and the short bio, as in many kinds of writing, you generally want to make sure you have a powerful beginning and a strong ending. The beginning is probably most important, but you also want to ‘stick the landing’, as we say at Briteweb. 

  • If you need help with how to approach your opening paragraph, our long and short bios typically begin with a brief statement of what your organization does (“Briteweb is a social impact agency and strategic partner specializing in branding, digital and marketing solutions for nonprofits, foundations and purpose-driven companies”) and/or a brief description of the problem you exist to address or solve.

    Tavia’s long bio, which they’ve used as the about page on their website, starts with like this: “Half of the world’s population menstruates. But somehow, period stigma is still a thing. The consequences for women and girls can be big—especially in the developing world, where period stigma, and lack of access to menstrual supplies, is a major barrier to girls’ education. In East Africa, four out of five girls drop out of school due to the consequences of their period. Tavia here to help change that.”)   

  • If you’re doing your brand messaging as part of a full brand strategy process in collaboration with an agency, a professional copywriter will likely be included (at least it is when you work with Briteweb). If you’re doing the messaging as a standalone project, you might want to consider enlisting the services of a professional copywriter—ideally one with brand strategy expertise.

    In addition to being familiar with this very specific type of writing, they will have the objectivity of an outsider, so they can help give you some perspective on what’s important enough to include in your core messaging. When you’re an expert on your own organization, it can be difficult to pare what you do—and how and why you do it—down to the essentials. That’s what brand strategists are for.  

And just like that, we’ve reached the end of our Building An Effective Brand Strategy series. If you want to know more about Briteweb’s approach to branding, you can visit our services page—or (even better) get in touch with us. We’d be happy to have a zero-pressure, no-obligation chat about your brand strategy needs.

 

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